‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ review: Phenomenal titan clash

Godzilla: King of the Monsters takes VFX terror and awe to a skyrocketing high. Those who are out for blood (and radiation) should see this on the biggest screen possible.

Any sensible moviegoer should know that Godzilla is the star of any given Godzilla show. Human characters naturally play second fiddle to the story. After all, the roots of this franchise has always occupied a B-level form of entertainment. You don’t go to this movie looking for Shakespearean character depth. The whole point here is to watch monsters beating the heck out of each other. Right? Hence, it does not bother me that King of the Monsters’ top priority is to showcase more epic monster fights. Actually, this is a course correction to the shortcomings of its 2014 predecessor when it comes to adrenaline department.

Once again, the sequel hails Godzilla as Earth’s unlikely defender. The monster’s intention for saving humanity has always been unclear – the film though offers a quick reasoning that titans are Earth’s “last line of defense” against alien invaders. One of which is the fabled King Ghidorah – a three-headed, beam-blasting dragon which serves as Godzilla’s primary rival for apex predator. The dragon sends out a siren call to awaken all the other dormant Titans around the globe, with one mission in mind: smash everything. This includes a pterodactyl Rodan emerging from a Mexican volcano and a luminous giant moth Mothra which thankfully, has an allegiance to Godzilla.

Meet the titans of ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters

On a visual level, King of the Monsters is an arresting work of art. There are plenty of money shots here that deliver pure spectacle. It helps that these creatures are crafted with such detail and passion. Ghidorah’s heads seem to have their own distinct personalities. Mothra delivers lyrical beauty through its large flapping wings. Godzilla even gets beefed up and a character comments on its physical upgrade (“Has he been working out?”) With several kaijus in the picture, it only makes sense to make the monster look stronger and more able. Godzilla lights up his nuke-powered tail and lets loose a terrifying roar, followed by an atomic ray. The film instantly commands your undivided attention.

Aside from the top notch visual effects, director Michael Dougherty, along with cinematographer Lawrence Sher, present the terror and awe through human POVs first before finally zooming out to a series of wide shots to remind the audience how massive the stakes are. Aided by The Walking Dead’s musical scorer Bear McCreary, the film takes its rip-roaring action to a skyrocketing high. There’s a thrilling high-speed chase which pits Rodan against a bunch of military aircraft. Elsewhere, most battles are set at night time with only the blue phosphorescence coming from the Godzilla’s back to light up the proceedings. If you don’t want any darkness (similar to Game of Thrones’ Battle of Winterfell) to taint your viewing experience, you’ll have to watch this in an IMAX theater.

Former British Army colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) coerces paleobiologist Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown)

Surprisingly, the human connection has also improved. Instead of being just powerless ciphers of the first film, the human characters take a more proactive role in joining the battle. In here, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown in her debut movie) develop a bioacoustic machine called the ‘Orca’ that can be used to communicate with Titans. Unfortunately, eco-terrorist leader Alan (Charles Dance) abducts them, uses the device to release Ghidorah and allows it to decimate the overpopulated planet in an attempt to restore “ecological balance.” Sounds like someone has a Thanos savior complex.

On the other hand, crypto-zoological organization Monarch enlists Emma’s ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) to help them track Orca’s signal across the globe, as the bad guys release one monster after another. The rest of the supporting casts – Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, Zhang Ziyi and O’Shea Jackson Jr., are mainly present to spout scientific arguments, explain them in layman terms or act as narrative devices. While character motivations can get muddled and the film’s environmental subtext is immediately dropped in favor of more action, the film does not let you dwell on these narrative flaws. The visual splendor is always ready to sweep you off your feet.

Animal behavior and communication specialist Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) tries to rescue his family amid the massive chaos.

The potential of Legendary Entertainment’s MonsterVerse can be summed up in the films’ explosive third act royal rumble. Godzilla: King of Monsters is an electrifying and fantastic kaiju extravaganza that satiates one’s appetite for destruction. Suffice to say, if you’re into this stuff, it’s an excellent choice for a popcorn blockbuster. Otherwise, this can end up numbing to the senses.

As references to Kong: Skull Island are made to set up the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong in 2020, I’m definitely sticking to see more of what this franchise has to offer.

4 out of 5 stars
Directed by Michael Dougherty, written by Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ stars Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe and Zhang Ziyi. With T.J. Storm as Godzilla (via motion capture). Based on the Japanese film Godzilla by Toho. 132 minutes. PG-13.

‘Krampus’ director paints the holidays with fright

Krampus writer-director Michael Dougherty has long taken an interest in the delightfully dark and subversive.  From his breakout feature, 2007’s “Trick ’r Treat,” which began as a small release and has grown to attract a rabid cult following, to his unexpected research into the origins of the winter solstice, the filmmaker has discovered that the dark side of pop culture and folklore is often much more fascinating than the humdrum stories we’ve been told.

Dougherty explains that it was about 15 years ago that he was introduced to the dark side of December’s beloved holiday: “The same way that Americans send out Christmas cards, Europeans have this rich tradition of sending out Krampus cards.  I was shown these beautiful illustrations of this creature called Krampus, who stole children, and images of people cowering in fear.  Still, they had such a fun, mischievous quality, similar to our Halloween.  I found that appealing because it made Christmas more enjoyable to know that there was this dark, mischievous side to the holiday that Americans didn’t have yet.  It was lurking in the shadows waiting to be rediscovered.”

The more he explored, the more Dougherty realized how intricate the cloven-hooved demon’s history actually is.  He states: “One theory is that Krampus goes back to the roots of the holiday itself, which go all the way back to pagan history.  Before it was Christmas, it was the winter solstice.  It was closer in tone and style to Halloween, in that it was more debaucherous and more of an outlet for our pent-up frustrations.  When Christians rolled in and took over, they saw how much people liked the solstice celebration, and so they co-opted it and parked Christmas on top of it.”  He pauses.  “There are theories that Santa Claus was even created as an antidote to Krampus.”

For the filmmaker, Santa’s dark shadow seemed to stay top of mind.  “He just kept coming into my consciousness,” says Dougherty.  “In the past few years, they discussed Krampus on `The League’ and `American Dad.’  He showed up on `The Colbert Report.’  It was like this indie band that people were passing around, and it just felt like the right time.  So I worked with a couple friends, Todd Casey and Zach Shields, on the script for quite a while.  We fine-tuned it until it felt just right, and the timing now feels very fortuitous.”

Producer Alex Garcia, who has worked with Dougherty since their days together on “X-Men 2” and “Trick ’r Treat,” was in love with the universe that the writing partners imagined.  He says: “Todd, Zach and Michael created this incredibly genuine and fun backdrop for Krampus’ coming-out party for modern audiences.  They set the story in a seemingly everyday world with very real and relatable characters.  Max’s family has come to represent everything that’s wrong with how we celebrate Christmas: the over-commercialization, the inordinate pressure for perfection, and the holiday’s stressed and frenetic nature.  When they break the last straw and nearly stamp out Max’s belief, they bring forth the wrath of Krampus, and all comic hell breaks loose.”

With the support of his fellow producers, Dougherty aims for a balance of comedy with thrills in his movies.  “If you look at the Krampus myth and the history of the character, there is something quite loveable and likeable about him,” he reflects.  “Therefore, it wouldn’t feel right to make a film that was overly intense, gory or extreme.  There’s the comedy aspect of our story, the horror, obviously—and it’s full of monsters and scares and suspense—but there is also a very heavy dose of dark fairytale and fantasy to it.  My whole career, I’ve been trying to bring that mischievous quality to movies, the kind I missed from the ’80s.  I hope we’ve achieved that with Krampus.”

Opening across the Philippines on December 2, 2015, Krampus is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

— PRESS STATEMENT FROM UNITED INTERNATIONAL PICTURES

‘Krampus’ featurette sheds light on Christmas demon

As the opening of its new horror thriller Krampus nears, Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures have released a new featurette which clues viewers in on the many variations of Krampus throughout the years and how writer/director Michael Dougherty plans to bring his vision to life in the new film.

Learn about the legend and lore of Krampus with the new featurette below.

Legendary Pictures’ “Krampus,” a darkly festive tale of a yuletide ghoul, reveals an irreverently twisted side to the holiday.

When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony) is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Little does he know, this lack of festive spirit has unleashed the wrath of Krampus: a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers.

All hell breaks loose as beloved holiday icons take on a monstrous life of their own, laying siege to the fractured family’s home and forcing them to fight for each other if they hope to survive.

The horror-comedy also stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Stefania Lavie Owen and Krista Stadler.

Krampus and his mischievous underlings have been created by the combined efforts of Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, both renowned for their epic work on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and King Kong, among many others.

Written and directed by Michael Dougherty (Trick ’r Treat), Krampus is co-written by Zach Shields and Todd Casey and produced by Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia and Dougherty.

Opening across the Philippines on December 2, 2015, Krampus is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

— PRESS STATEMENT FROM UNITED INTERNATIONAL PICTURES

LOOK: Scary creature intrudes in new ‘Krampus’ poster

Home invasion gets a “monstrous” twist as dark creature Krampus prepares to crash an unsuspecting house in the newly released poster for Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ Krampus.

A darkly festive tale of a yuletide ghoul, revealing an irreverently twisted side to the Christmas holiday, “Krampus” is directed by Michael Dougherty, and stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Emjay Anthony, Allison Tollman, David Koechner, Conchata Ferrell, Stefania Owen and Krista Stadler.

When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony) is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Little does he know, this lack of festive spirit has unleashed the wrath of Krampus: a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers.

All hell breaks loose as beloved holiday icons take on a monstrous life of their own, laying siege to the fractured family’s home and forcing them to fight for each other if they hope to survive.

Opening across the Philippines on December 2, 2015, Krampus is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

— PRESS STATEMENT FROM UNITED INTERNTAITONAL PICTURES

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